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A Match Made in Hog Heaven

September 29, 2023

I didn’t see it coming.

Earl, a large Hampshire pig, was rescued by Ruthless Kindness after his youth farm program family couldn’t bear to sell him for meat. Stubborn and greedy with food, he also melts for belly rubs and loves when “You Are My Sunshine” is sung to him. When he joined our crew, we already had sheep and chickens on our mini farm, but no other pigs. We worried about him being lonely and rescued Birdie. Birdie is a Mangalica wooly pig who was terrified of people at first. She followed Earl around the yard and spooned him at night. We felt comforted that Earl would have a friend.

Finley is my 17-year old daughter. She’s a beautiful musician, a person who thrives on social energy, and best of all, a person who connects with souls regardless of age, appearance, or any other societal uniform. Several years ago, she had to change schools, and hadn’t yet settled into a friend group. She was eager for connection, and we adopted a chihuahua that she adored. We hoped this warm fuzzy companion would bring her refuge during the roller coaster of adolescence and its jagged introduction to hormones. We felt comforted that she would have a friend.

While we hoped that our second pig and our first chihuahua would be companions for certain members of our crew, we got the matchmaking all wrong. Much to our surprise, it’s Finley the teenager and Earl the pig who became unconditional friends.

When Finley went away to music school in Michigan, her tutor told me that they spent most of their time talking about Earl the pig. She wasn’t sure if they were making much academic progress. Finley would facetime me, asking me to let her see Earl. I got a call from the school’s counseling office saying that they had met with Fin, and she was very homesick, particularly missing her pig. “Is this abnormal?” I asked. “No, I think she just really loves her pig. Love is love.”, the counsellor replied.

Love is love. Black and white thinking doesn’t apply to love, something so colorful and indestructible that it informs everything from parenting to art to the human-animal bond. My daughter can love music, she can love me, and she can love Earl. When love is felt, it’s valid, regardless of our expectations.

The pandemic made being away at school hard, and after a year, Finley came home. Straight from the airport, she leapt down the hill to see Earl, her ponytail flipping high up in the air. She fell to the ground, hugging him, and Earl raised his nose to hers, something he doesn’t do with anyone else. “Oink” Finley said. “Oink” replied Earl. Earl really does oink back at her, and ignores the rest of us.

When I’m trying to find Fin to nag about this or that, she’s either asleep (typical teenager) or out with Earl (not so typical). I’m thankful that she was open to joy and friendship in whatever form it presented itself. I’m thankful, for both Fin and Earl, that they weren’t limited by how society has tried to define teenagers and pigs.

By Dr. Reidenbach

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